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Should Light Rail be Built along North Tryon?
Should Light Rail be Built on North Tryon Street?

Consultants have recommended light rail on North Tryon St. or a busway as the best choice to serve the Northeast corridor, which includes the University area. They recommend tracks in the middle of North Tryon as one alternative, with light rail having an exclusive right-of-way. Another alternative would have light rail sharing the street with cars in typical streetcar fashion.

We have not seen all the details of this proposal but from what has been revealed we have some reservations about this proposal. While running light rail down Tryon St. may have some advantages, it also has many disadvantages. Let’s take a look at both.


  1. It will serves the North Tryon businesses and neighborhoods.
  2. Light rail will cost more to build, but will save on operation costs once it is completed because of its higher capacity.
  3. It should provide a smoother, more comfortable ride than the buses it will replace.
  4. It should attract a greater ridership.
  5. It should provide more development opportunities and enhance the desirability of the neighborhoods it passes through.


  1. Building light rail in the middle of North Tryon St. all the way up to Harris Blvd. will be extremely expensive. So expensive it may take away money needed to build transit in other corridors.
  2. While light rail on North Tryon might serve that area well, it will pull service away from other areas that want it, including North Graham and Derita.
  3. Using Tryon St. will slow light rail, even if it operates in its own right-of-way, with many cross-streets to contend with. If the other alternative is chosen, which is to share the street with automobile traffic, light rail will be relegated to the level of little more than a modern day streetcar.
  4. The North Tryon proposal would eliminate a fast ride on rail for people who live and work in the University area. If they want a fast ride uptown they are being told they will be given a busway to ride. The problem with this as we see it is that the University area probably has the greatest ridership potential in the corridor. Why should they be made to play a secondary role in this corridor?
  5. The North Tryon proposal does not provide a linkage to future commuter rail in the University area, and to a future satellite train station in that area. CEMT and area citizens have proposed this. Despite the consultants recommendation that "commuter rail probably shouldn’t be tried" there are the long-term needs of communities such as Concord, Kannapolis and as far north as Salisbury. Light rail on North Tryon, or even busways, does not adequately address those future needs in our opinion.

Jesse Reese, chairman of the transportation improvements committee of the Tryon North Development Corp. was quoted as saying they "want a system that will move people quickly. We don’t want an antiquated system." Yet it would seem to us at this juncture, without having seen all of the details of this proposal, that this is what we might end up with! A light rail line on a long, slow trip down North Tryon St. will do little to speed up the service that it replaces. After the initial novelty wears off some may even find it antiquated. Light rail, impeded by cross traffic at best – choked by automobile traffic at worst – will be unable to perform the advantages that are an inherent part of its character when built properly.

We understand that the people on North Tryon are trying to bring about development and we appreciate their concern that they are not left out of the picture when the Northeast corridor is developed. However, a streetcar line all the way up North Tryon is not going to serve this corridor well, and even more important, it will not be cost effective. Therefore, we have not changed our viewpoint that the Northeast corridor would be better built up North Graham, sharing R-O-W with the North corridor regional rail if possible, but more likely built parallel to it. At Derita it would use the old IBM rail spur R-O-W through the University Research Park and UNCC, terminating at a future satellite train station in the vicinity of NC 49 and I-485.

What then needs to be done for the North Tryon area? Certainly better transit and street improvements for this area should be a part of any plan for the Northeast corridor. We’ll leave this subject for a future article. Finally, like the other corridors being studied, whatever is ultimately done as far as transit is concerned, North Tryon must be part of an overall land-use policy and not an "if we build it they will come" approach.